Physician CME activities with prepaid card incentives have emerged as an alternative option for those with remaining CME funds expiring soon.
Medical Reviewer: Jordan P. Roberts, PA-C
Earning CME Credits in
While our options for earning CME credits usually don’t change that much year to year, this is not true of 2022. That’s partly because of increasingly manageable transmission rates, or a collective agreement to pretend COVID is over. Additionally, the pandemic has forced remarkable innovation and change in the CME industry.
But that doesn’t mean everything’s “normal.” Many clinicians continue to contend with restricted CME allowances and decreased time off for such purposes. I worry that in many cases, these benefits will be slower to return than they were taken away.
That said, we’ll go through some actionable ways you can earn your CME credits in this pseudo post-covid world. For those with CME allowances and/or time off (even if it’s been kneecapped), we have put together a brief list of CME with incentives. This includes free prepaid Visa cards, memorial day/summer discounts, or other instruments that can ostensively stretch out your CME stipend.
Then we’ll discuss conferences, why we love them, and where to find those that will interest you the most. Lastly, if your CME budget has been altogether “suspended,” we’ve compiled a few free CME activities that might be worth your consideration.
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1. CME + Incentives
Here’s something that really grinds my goat. The cost for independent CME generally increases over time, yes this reality is not reflected in your CME stipend. Even worse, a solid proportion of us don’t get any CME money specifically set aside each year, making independent CME less accessible.
There are a number of reasons for these rising costs. Implementing new technology and learning formats, building more engaging platforms, and general quality improvement don’t come cheap. However, these are well worth it if you ask me.
There are also factors related to specific kinds of CME that make cost control challenging. For example, CME conference providers need to recoup costs related to their room block, food and beverage minimums, rent for the space itself, staffing costs, and more.
No doubt you’ve noticed. Attending a major CME meeting easily runs into $3,000 for a couple dozen credits, according to data from more than a freaking decade ago.
So, what can you do?
1a. CME with Gift Cards
The most effective way to stretch your CME money is with CME with gift cards. Essentially, you get one to three years worth of CME credits for a fraction of the cost of a traditional conference. There are also specific companies that offer free gift cards of up to $3,000 with your purchase.
I suggest using the gift card to further your education even more by purchasing the books, references, models, equipment, etc. you need. But you do you, I’m not your accountant.
If you are looking for CME or board review materials to purchase before your CME money expires, BoardVitals is a great choice right now. Not only do we have a promo code nobody else has, but you can also defer starting your subscription if you want to buy now and use later.
That discount code is MODERN150, and will get save you $150 on your CME purchase. It expires June 30, 2022.
1b. Low Cost CME
If you aren’t one for the CME with gift card option, or your hospital/practice won’t reimburse you for this kind of program, here are a few reputable, cost-effective online CME providers.
2. CME Conferences
Pre-COVID (and pre-fatherhood), CME conferences were one of my absolute favorite ways to earn credits. I started attending meetings as a student, so I was drinking the Conference Kool-Aid before I was even eligible for CME. You better believe I’ll be taking my daughter to medical conferences before she can even pronounce pseudohypoparathyroidism.
It may come as no surprise that CME conferences have been sparse lately. Even before the pandemic, one of the most substantial barriers to attendance was price. However, this can be mitigated in a few ways.
Attending smaller conferences more frequently. Taking a ‘CME vacation’ or going on a wilderness CME excursion. Registering for meetings with morning lectures and free afternoons. Participating in a virtual conference.
One CME conference provider that comes to mind is CME Procedures, with both in-person events, procedure-focused seminars, and CME vacation options.
3. Free CME
If you don’t have a dedicated CME allowance and you don’t want to spend your own money on CME at the moment, rest assured that you can still earn all the CME credits you need for free.
Most of the activities will be on the shorter side, 15 to 30 minutes, each with its own certificate. This means slightly more administrative work on your end, logging and uploading the additional activities and documents. However, this is not universally true.
Because most free CME is not really free – the cost is just shifted to someone else – clinicians should be cognizant of potential outside influences. A provider taking industry money to support a CME program or activity isn’t necessarily inherently biased more than anyone else. I’m just saying, there is a reason for pointing a critical (if not a touch schmaltzy) eye towards CME.
So, where can you find quality free CME/CE?
StatPearls recently began offering their high-quality CME at ludicrously reasonable pricing. Their paid CME programs allow them to fund the free CME, making industry aid unnecessary. Check out their latest free activity – monkeypox.
Other free CME options +/- industry involvement:
AAFP Free CME
There are two types of free CME from AAFP: members and non-members. As expected, members have a larger volume of activities from which to choose.
Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education
Note that there is also a good amount of paid CME here, including live conferences.
For the free stuff, stick to the ‘Text-Based CME,’ ‘Webcast,’ or ‘Journal CME’ tabs. I knocked out an easy 1.0 credit activity there in the research for this article. I found it engaging, high-quality, and worth my time.
I almost feel a little silly putting this entry here. I can’t imagine you don’t already know about their near endless supply of little 0.25 CME nuggets. However, I find it too tedious to log a substantial amount of CME credits from Medscape. Sure, they have a few 0.5 credit activities, and you’ll even trip over a full credit activity if you don’t watch your step. Fine for a few CMEs here and there, but not a staple for me.
Additionally, the topics their CME activities cover seem lean toward the still-on-patent cutting-edge innovations from industry. That doesn’t necessarily mean the activities themselves are commercially-biased or any lower in quality than comparable CME providers. Just an observation.